Sunday, February 28, 2016

Trail ride video!

I think this is our 17th ride? Yesterday I set up my video camera on the little trail out back. Since she was so good last weekend with trotting out there, I decided that I would try to do more work out there and especially work on the canter on the trails. With Mac I found that it was a great way to teach the canter so that he could just go forward, and I think it will be good for Princess Fancy Pants, too. As I mentioned in previous postings, I've cantered her twice before today, for just a few strides. But I feel like outdoors it will be easier for her and she can go for a longer period of time because we wouldn't always be turning. I think visually it helps them to see that there's a lot of open space ahead to move out.

Heretofore (I love that word) I would ride her in the indoor for a little bit (w/t), and then go outside for a walk on the trails to cool down. Last week's ride, I did half and half - half the ride indoors, then instead of just cooling down outside, I did a little bit of trotting on the track. She was nice and forward and really seemed to like it.

For yesterday's ride, I just went straight outside. I had placed the camera where I'd get most coverage, but there are still only a few-second snippets of each thing we did.

The first short sections are of us walking. My plan was to trot next, and I was surprised when instead she picked up the canter! So I just went with it. I'm not embarrassed to say I was just a little skeert because she's obviously VERY green, there were no walls to hold us in, deer could have jumped out from anywhere, and this pony can leap off the ground and fold herself in half very easily if she wants to - she's very athletic. Plus it was windy, and the area behind me is our neighbors' house where the ninja dog was lurking about (she'll silently run at the fence with no barking or warning), they have a tarp that is always flapping around, and their garbage can had blown over and was rolling around in the yard.

We did just that one section of cantering, then we'd come back to the walk. We did that for two laps, then the other way we did some trotting. A couple laps of walking again to cool out and I called it a day, as that was the longest period of time we had spent out there. It was about a 20-minute ride.

Princess Fancy Pants was perfect. What a great way for her to work, I think I'll do it like that from now on!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Trailering out!

Princess Fancy Pants and I went for an outing yesterday - first time since October! I've been working on trailer loading again for the past few days to prepare, and yesterday morning she just walked right on. Good girl! We went to a place that is very close to my house, which makes it very convenient for going before work.

There are 16 or so horses at this place and they are all outside in paddocks, so Pony was very interested when we got there. I put her in the round pen so she could have a look-see and take it all in while I chatted with the trainer. Pony ran around with her tail up in the air and tried to get everyone's attention, but they didn't really pay her any mind. The owner's dog crawled under the round pen fence to snatch a piece of poop that Pony so kindly deposited, and I told the owner that we have dogs at home but they are on the other side of the fence so I didn't know what Pony would do. Well, she went right after that dog! She chased it around the round pen for a few laps before the dog had enough time to squeeze under the fence and get out. Hmmmm....maybe some day we can move cows for fun!

Owner left us alone to do our thing and so I just did some attention-getting stuff with her - as in, get your attention on me and not everything else. I remembered some things from my Harry Whitney clinic a couple years ago and so put that to work. Basically, whenever she looks away and puts her attention on something else, move in such a fashion to draw her attention back to me. If that doesn't work, add some sound (so, slapping my thigh), or another larger stimulus (flag or bag or jumping up and down or something). She caught on to that very quickly, and it didn't require running her around in the round pen.

Since I've done clicker training with her and had my bag of goodies on me for trailer loading, I thought I'd see if I could use that to keep her attention and shape her behavior to something new. There was a tire in the middle of the round pen with a platform mounted on top of it (it was stable). I wanted to see if I could get her to put a foot on the platform without me trying to lead her by halter to do so (her halter was off). So I stood with the platform in between us and just waited for her to do something. She put her nose down to check it out, so I clicked and gave her a treat. She knew it was training time. (Side note, this is how I usually start out with something - get her to touch it with her nose - so she's used to this pattern and she'll lower her head to do so, which is a relaxing posture.) She tried that a couple more times and got click/treats. Time to step it up a notch. I next wanted to get her to just touch the tire/platform with her foot. Since she's prone to pawing, shouldn't be too hard. As she was leaning forward asking me to give her a treat, I'd back up so that her body weight would come forward and she's shift her legs or take a step. By "mistake" she'd touch the target with her foot. Click/reward. But she didn't clue in right away so she kept trying to get a treat from me. We sort of circled around the target a couple times and then when she stepped toward it again, click/reward. Accidentally kick it, click/reward. Lift her foot up, click/reward. Put her foot on the target, click/reward (big reward of a cookie - small rewards are a few pieces of alfalfa pellets) and lots and lots of praise and the end of the exercise.

I put her halter on and we went to the arena to just walk around. They have a bigger platform there, so I tried it on that one just to see how it would go. Much faster this time, and she would hold her foot up there for longer. We didn't do that but for a minute or so. Called it a good first outing and went home.

I think she was a bit confused as to why we went there because she wasn't so anxious to leave, but we'll go back next week and soon hopefully it will be old hat!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Training on the trails

Princess Fancy Pants has been so good! The past couple times I've ridden her, she tells me she'd rather hit the trails than be in the arena. She tells me this by trying to stop by the gate that we go out to get to the trails in the back of the property. So yesterday that's what we did!

Well, first we did start with a little warmup inside the arena, just to make sure that we had some semblance of steering and brakes. Going to the right is her more difficult side in terms of bending and moving off that leg, so I thought that it would be nice to start working her on the trails so we'd have room to just go straight and not worry about always having a corner coming up. After our brief warmup, that's what we did.

We went out to the back trails and walked one loop, just to see what was going on at the neighbors' house behind us (not in a nosy sort of way, they just have kids who may or may not be playing back there, a tarp that may or may not be flapping in the wind, and a ninja shiba inu dog who comes running up to the fence without making a peep). It all seemed quiet and so on our second lap I picked up the trot. Pony liked working back there! She was very forward, took contact nicely, and was just fun to ride! After two laps of trot in one direction (with many transitions), we turned around to loop back the other way. We were trotting nicely along, and I could sense something to the right of us and sure enough, it was ninja dog running up to the fence. Pony and I stopped and said hello to the dog, then went back to work and trotted another lap and she was just so good that we ended on that.

I think that for canter work, that would be a better place to do it so she can just go forward. That's what I did with Mac when I was getting him going, and I think having trails and a nice open space to canter are really good for young horses who are just learning their balance.

And since she's just so beautiful, here is a picture of her from Saturday afternoon . . . with her boyfriend hanging out with her on the other side of the fence.

Monday, February 15, 2016

We cantered!

I can't remember if I wrote a few weeks ago about the pony cantering. I've been working on voice commands on the lunge so that when it is time to canter under saddle, she'll have a voice aid that she'll recognize and it will cue her to canter (since she won't yet know what the leg and seat aids are). Since we started back to work a few weeks ago, her canter has been a bit on the crazy side on the lunge line. Going right she'd canter just fine. Going left, she'd buck and fart and leap in the air. Since I had seen her do a slip and slide in the bad weather, I figured something must be ouchy or out so I called the chiropractor.

Pony had her first chiropractic last week and she was a little out so she had a nice therapy session and then a couple days off.

I rode her on Saturday and she was so great!

I started with my usual pattern. A bit of ground work, some light lunging, some long lining, then ride. During the ground work, I even rubbed her all over with my piece of tarp and she stood there quietly - even while I did her legs, belly, and butt! She was perfect for everything we did. And her canter was easy and quiet and so I was feeling brave when I got on.

We did a bit of walk and trot work in each direction, working on some nice big serpentines and changes of direction. I figured I'd give it a go. We trotted, trotted faster, and I could feel it in there (the willingness to canter), so I gave her the voice command, along with a kissing sound, and she picked up the canter! Going left, she picked up the right lead, so I let her break after a few strides and gave her much, much, much praise (for her first canter, all I care about is that she did it, not what lead she was on). We had a little break and then trotted some to the right, I asked for the canter and she picked it up much more quickly and was on the correct lead, so we held it for almost a lap and we came back down to a trot then walk. Lots and lots more praise. I called it a day at that and we went for a walk in the back on the trail.

When we got back, I was untacking her in the arena and after I pulled her saddle off, she was playing with some training stuff I have up on a ledge. She pulled off the rope (roping rope) and scared herself a little bit, so I picked it up and swung it around. She didn't care. So I played a little more and "roped" her with it. She actually seemed to enjoy the attention and just stood there. I "roped" her again and led her around by her neck and she followed me. We had some nice quiet pony chillin' time.

What a great ride and fun pony day!

Monday, February 8, 2016

My favorite view

It doesn't get any better than this!

Spring is here!

Or so it feels like. As such, I thought it would be a lovely day for a hack yesterday. As I was doing poo chores in the dry lot while the horses were eating breakfast, everyone was so happy and mellow and the sun was shining, that I thought, "trail ride day!"

My plan was actually to ride Mac on the loop I have on the back of the property, but when I went to the gate to call him, the pony came up instead. Since she was eager and willing to come out of the pasture, I put her halter on and headed to the barn to tack her up.

Colin was stacking hay in the barn and she was not one bit bothered by that. I tacked her up and everything was fine. Did a little ground work ahead of time, but I thought I'd try skipping the lunging and long-lining and just hop on for a short little ride.


This was the first time I rode with the horses in this configuration. Usually if I'm going to ride in the morning I feed everyone breakfast in their stall/paddocks, then ride, then turn everyone out together. But they were already out together and the pony decided that rather than ride she'd like to go back to her boys, please.

Um, no. It doesn't work like that.

She was fussy about the mounting block. She wanted to go to the gate so she could look outside and see the boys. But I persevered and finally got her to stand quietly at the block. With her, a little bit of discipline (a growl or making her feet move) combined with a LOT of praise and good girls and soft strokes on the neck work better than getting after her. That would not work for her. So once I got her standing quietly, I got on.

Steering went out the window.

All steering was me trying to get her to not bulge toward the gate. We did lots of figure 8s and serpentines and changes of direction. I offered her a chance to rest away from the gate but she wanted to go to the gate, so we did, but she had to work while she was down there (and by work I mean try to have some semblance of a circle/steering and just doing what I asked versus bulging this way and that and wandering around willy nilly). She seemed to have energy to spare, so we did a lot of trotting. It looks like her evasion will be to tuck her chin, so I put a stop to that whenever she did. She'd tuck, we'd come down to a walk and walk forward and circle or move off the leg or something else, then trot. Another tuck, another change of exercise. She's very smart so it only took a couple times for her to give that up and then we could have a nice trot on a light rein and feel more loose in the body.

I had to take what I could get. Keeping in mind she's still not yet four, I can't expect too much from her. So when I was able to get a nice trot with decent bend and no curling behind the bit, we called it quits.

She had a nice roll, and I thought I'd take her for a trail walk in-hand since we didn't go for a trail ride. Seemed like a good idea and a nice day for it, but then the boys decided to go nuts calling for her and running the fence line. If that wasn't bad enough, the dogs (on the other side of the fence) thought it would be fun to bark and chase the horses along the fence line. Pony did as well as she could to hold it together. I would stop every now and then to mellow out .... she does that well (versus Paddy, who would just start piaffing), so we stopped maybe 10 times or so to get her wits about her. Then we had a nice quiet walk back.

So much for my mellow hack down the trails!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Pop Quiz

Who is the best pony? Princess Fancy Pants!

I'm trying to get back into a schedule of working with the pony since the weather is warming up a bit. On Thursday I started with clipping her gorilla face! She had a very fuzzy winter face, so I got out the clippers and cleaned up under her jawline, the whiskers (I don't clip them off, just shorten them), and a little of the long hairs around her face and neck. She was very ladylike for that.

Next came some ground work, some easy lunging (sans bit), some double-lunging (with bit) and then got on. The neighbor's dog was peeking under the fence about 20' away, which PFP could see from the arena and which made her a little looky. But for her, looky is just that - looky. No snorting or spooking or running sideways or anything, just a look-see. Then the dog came over for a poop snack from the dry lot area but that was no big deal. (Cute and sweet dog, I don't worry about him menacing the horses.)

We just worked on walk and forward trot and w/t transitions for a bit. Then I sidled her up to the gate and unlatched it from her back (first time, another no big deal) and then swung it open from her back. She was perfect!

We then went for a little trail ride out back and she was great. First time she's been out on a little trail ride since probably October, but she was fine.

That was ride number 13 and I will admit that I'm a bit superstitious ,so I was glad to have that under my belt.

Today I worked with her again. I decided to put a cavaletto on the ground on one long side, and then in one corner I put the mounting block (far enough away from the wall/corner that we could ride on the rail and go between the block and the wall) and then in another a small piece of tarp. We did some ground work exercises whereby we went over the pole then did some figure 8s around the other two items. Then we moved on to the long lines (I did move the tarp for that one) and did a little walk and trot. Of course she was perfect, so I got on.

I should mention that Colin was in the paddocks doing my poo chores for me and she didn't bat an eye about him driving around with the mower and little dump wagon (tractor is in the shop) and climbing over and through the fences.

When I got on we worked on circles, changes of direction, and then a short exercise whereby we walked over the pole (first time under saddle) then picked up a trot and did one lap at the trot and came back down to the walk before the pole. We did that three times, then for the fourth time we trotted over the pole. Perfect! Switched directions and did it the other way. No problemo, although going right is her more difficult side so we did do a couple extra circles to get a little bend through the corner. She really doesn't need a lot of repetition, she picks up on things very quickly, so I called it a good schooling session with that (about 15 minutes) and we again opened the gate and went for a little trail ride out back.

All in all, a great day for me and the pony! :-)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

New fence!

One of the things that is new around here is our fencing. When we moved here there was 3-board fencing in the irrigated pastures, but they were old and weren't long for this world. Our first priority this year was to replace the boards with no-climb (the posts were in fine shape, so we kept those, thank goodness!).

Here's before

Here's after

The next step is to get a gate up, then that big project will be done. It will make me feel safer in case a horse gets loose . . . or in case our Very Bad Dog (tm) Willow jumps over the fence in the yard, this will at least slow her down!